Tuesday, 12 April 2022 06:55

Adapt or die!

Written by  David Anderson
SFF chair Rob Hewett SFF chair Rob Hewett

Farmers are being warned that they need to adapt to consumer-led change or risk going out of business.

Silver Fern Farms chair Rob Hewett told Rural News that the Covid pandemic has afforded affluent consumers around the world time to look at their consumption habits.

"They've been making decisions that they want to consume products that are better for themselves and the planet."

He believes NZ's primary produce is benefitting from what he calls a 'Covid premium'.

"However, despite current strong farmgate prices, the paradox is that farmer confidence is low, due to the extent and pace of change they are confronted with. I get it - change is not easy."

However, he believes farmers need to accept and adapt to the consumer-led changes coming or risk becoming irrelevant.

"The simple fact is that if we don't change, we are not relevant," says Hewett.

"We have to get over ourselves. If our consumers are asking us to verify our carbon balance, then we should be doing it."

He warns that elevated prices attract competitors into the market and that's where things like non-animal protein become more of a threat.

Hewett says SFF's long-term strategy, revealed last August, is to get closer to the consumer and deliver value back inside the farmgate.

"We have a plan, it's working and you can see it in the numbers [SFF's recent 2021 result] and we just need farmers to come along on the journey. The ones that do will reap the benefits."

Hewett says people have to either get on the bus or get off.

"It's really as simple as that."

Hewett believes that, on the pre-condition that farmers can respond favourably to consumer demands, the future for NZ agriculture is outstanding.

"We've got a sweet spot and we should look to take the advantage out of it."

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